SDUHSD hopes to improve ‘student connectedness’


At its June 16 meeting, the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board heard some new ideas to promote overall student wellness as part of the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan. Last week’s meeting was a first review of the 2016-19 plan, which is expected to be adopted at the June 30 meeting.

Under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, all districts are required to prepare an LCAP which describes how state funding will be used to fulfill its annual goals and priorities for all pupils. The district will receive $1.8 million in supplemental grant funding due to the formula based on numbers of low income, foster youth and English learner pupils.

The district met with parents, students, educators, community members and district staff to develop the vision for the plan. In feedback gathered since the fall, Associate Superintendent Jason Viloria said there has been a real emphasis placed on social and emotional support and student connectedness.

The LCAP outlined the district’s proposal to add a new site social worker role, placed at all of the high school campuses to help support the counselors. They will also add three mental health providers, each of whom will come with two to three interns to assist.

Viloria said the district is working to create a “team effort” where these new positions can work along with the counseling department and an additional school nurse to help students in need. He said staff all feels this model is appropriate.

SDUHSD Superintendent Rick Schmitt said as students these days face more pressures, having support at school is something more districts are moving toward.

“It’s been a big focus of my work this year, helping kids navigate the stress of teenage years,” Schmitt said.

Viloria said the district is still working on how the process will work, as well as training teachers to be able to identify students who are struggling socially and emotionally — he said overall staff is very excited.

“This was an identified need,” Viloria said. “We only have so much supplemental dollars to spend so this was the area that it was determined to be the best moving forward.”

SDUHSD board member Mo Muir has long advocated for more counselors at the school sites. The district has added more counselors over the last three years, improving the ratio from 550:1 to 445:1 but Muir believes that ratio is still too many.

“I’m just afraid kids will fall through the cracks because there are so many kids in need,” Muir said.

According to Schmitt, if the board approves the new social worker job description at the next board meeting, the district’s ratio will reduce further, by approximately 30 students per high school counselor. According to the most recent California Department of Education data, the average ratio of students per counselor in California is 945:1.

SDUHSD Vice President Joyce Dalessandro said she thinks the addition of social workers is a “fantastic start”— she said the district has to start somewhere, see how many children are in need and work from there.

Other goals outlined in the LCAP include improving student achievement through support and intervention and ensuring all graduates are college and career ready.

At the June 30 board meeting, the board will also approve the 2016-17 budget, a projected $129 million in revenue and $136 million in expenditures, a deficit of $6.7 million. The budget meets the board’s recommended 4.5 percent level of reserve funds, with an end balance of $13 million.

SDUHSD Associate Superintendent of Business Services Eric Dill said the district has a pattern of adopting a budget with deficits and in many cases ending the year with a surplus.

“We have low revenue and high expenditures but over the next course of the year we will work to bring those two sides together. We have a long history of doing just that,” Dill said. “We’re committed to stability and sustainability over time and we’re always taking a multi-year look at all of the factors that go into the budget.”

The budget reflects an increase in revenue due to an estimated 5 percent growth in property tax revenues and an increase in the state’s LCFF funding.

Expenditures are up overall due to items like the 5.5 percent salary increases, additional staffing at Pacific Trails Middle School due to next year’s addition of eighth grade and additional campus supervisors, a suggestion made by the board during its budget workshop.